The real climate and transformative impact of ICT: A critique of estimates, trends, and regulations

In this paper, we critique ICT's current and projected climate impacts. Peer-reviewed studies estimate ICT's current share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at 1.8%–2.8% of global GHG emissions; adjusting for truncation of supply chain pathways, we find that this share could actually be between 2.1% and 3.9%. For ICT's future emissions, we explore assumptions underlying analysts' projections to understand the reasons for their variability. All analysts agree that ICT emissions will not reduce without major concerted efforts involving broad political and industrial action. We provide three reasons to believe ICT emissions are going to increase barring intervention and find that not all carbon pledges in the ICT sector are ambitious enough to meet climate targets. We explore the underdevelopment of policy mechanisms for enforcing sector-wide compliance, and contend that, without a global carbon constraint, a new regulatory framework is required to keep the ICT sector's footprint aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Freitag, Charlotte, Mike Berners-Lee, Kelly Widdicks, Bran Knowles, Gordon S. Blair, and Adrian Friday. 2021. “The Real Climate and Transformative Impact of ICT: A Critique of Estimates, Trends, and Regulations.” Patterns 2 (9): 100340.

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